A/N: So my friend Lee gave me the prompt of my OTP proposing, so I wrote this in like fifteen minutes while listening to Sigur Ros. I don't even.
For anyone following my multi-chap marriage law Count Backwards to 1, the fourth chapter should be out within the next two weeks, though I'm afraid to promise exact time frames because then I'd just disappoint you all.
Fred skittered over the creaky floorboards, round the darkened corners and into the empty kitchen of Number 12. The house was eerily silent and pitch black, filled with the slumbering breaths of the Golden Trio (plus George, Ginny, and Luna) scattered in their respective bedrooms, spiralling through their desecrated dreams, the ones that war turned to nightmares.
Fred coughed violently; the thick odour of a potent pain potion permeated the warm air. He wandered through the winding hallways, past the curtain-covered portraits in search of the source—of her, Hermione, the only current inhabitant of Number 12 who was skilled enough in potions to brew the specific one Fred required. How fortunate, to have such a capable girlfriend, he thought to himself, a grin spreading across his face. They had been dating since Hermione's fifth year; almost four years now. Long enough.
Finally, on the third floor, he spotted a door with a line of light under the doorframe and a thick cloud of violet smoke pouring out. Faintly, he could hear an occasional fit of coughing or an exclamation of frustration or excitement.
She was sitting cross-legged on the drab grey bedspread, her steaming cauldron set in front of her and a plethora of ingredients scattered around, some staining the threadbare charcoal sheets. She hadn't noticed Fred's uncharacteristically quiet entrance. The smoke hung in the air, smelling like a mixture of acetone and strawberries, and it made Hermione's hair even bushier than normal.
Suddenly she noticed the stocky figure propped up against the doorframe, slightly obscured by the purple smoke. "What-why are you awake, Fred?" she demanded.
"Nice to see you, too." He shut the door and crossed the depressing, unclaimed bedroom to sit next to her as she worked.
"You can't distract me," she told him sternly. "Or you'll ruin your own painkiller." She stirred the blackish purple liquid and waited to see if Fred would talk.
"I couldn't sleep," he said after a moment. "I keep waking up feeling like all the portraits are watching me."
Hermione laughed. "That's-that's odd...but we can't move them at all," she replied.
"I'm sorry you have to do this for me every week."
Hermione looked up, surprised. "I-it's no trouble, Fred, really."
He shook his head guiltily, looking away from her. "You should teach me how to brew it, you know, so you don't have to do all this for me."
She almost laughed, but caught herself at the last moment when she realised he really did genuinely feel bad. "Fred, really, it's nothing."
"It's a five hour process every week," he protested.
"You'd screw it up if you did it," she joked. "You don't know how to make things unless they explode."
"Yeah, alright." He paused and fell silent for a long moment as she settled back into her tedious task. "Hermione, why do you do this for me?"
Her deep brown eyes flickered with surprise. "What-Fred, are you serious?"
"Deathly," he swore.
"Fred, I-I don't know, maybe because I don't want you to be in excruciating pain all the time?"
He grinned broadly. "You can do better than that."
"I would do it for any one of you. Don't flatter yourself; you're not special," she said, sticking her tongue out at him.
"But you stay up all night-"
"So you can have it in the morning. I wouldn't want you to have to wait with all the bones just healed-"
"Hermione, do you love me?" His voice was so soft she had to ask him to repeat himself. "Do you love me?" he asked, his voice strong but shaking somehow, deep in the foundation of the words where the meaning lay with its crushing subjectivity; how does she love me? As I love her or as she specifically loves another? he wondered to himself. And the shaking built to an earthquake tumbling the inquiry into a crescendo of desperation as he all but shouted, "Do you love me, Hermione?" his voice quivering with the most intense desire for an affirmative.
Their eyes locked, the desperate blue on the startled brown. Hermione stared, wading through the pools of emotion that threatened to drag her under and drown her beneath four years of separation and war and words left unspoken. "I-of course I do, Fred-"
"Then why haven't you said so?" he asked finally, his voice almost cracking and crumbling.
"I hadn't gotten the chance. You know that." Her soft words floundered under regret buried a mile deep and mixing with the tragedy of loss.
"But you do?"
"Say it, Hermione. Please."
"I-I love you, Fred." The words tumbled from her lips so quickly and without hesitation that for all the world there was no way she couldn't have meant it.
"I love you too."
"Four years-" she started, her voice coloured with an almost wistful wonder.
"Hermione, will you marry me?" Fred asked, almost shouting, out of nowhere; later he would wonder where he got the nerve to be so abrupt.
She looked completely taken aback, her eyes widening almost comically.
"Hermione Jean Granger, will you marry me?" he tried again. "I honestly—I'm really bad at planning and I didn't get a ring yet but I will and...please?"
Words failed her. But sometimes the unspoken answers do suffice, Fred mused as their lips collided and the words exploded into fireworks in their minds.